Hailing from the Netherlands, Mark Schimmel’s journey into craft chocolate started in rather humble beginnings – a 14 year old pot wash in a bakery. Mark found himself captivated by the work of talented chefs hard at work around him. He would marvel at their creations and dreamed that perhaps one day he too could create such wonders.
After working in Michelin starred restaurants and starting his own pastry and chocolaterie business, it was in 2011 that Mark decided to explore the world of chocolate making from bean to bar, as it was, after all, his favourite product and most frequently used ingredient. Mark visited Daarnhouwer & Co in Zaandam, The Netherlands, who have specialised in fine-flavour cacao since 1908. Ever a ‘hands on’ man, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Mark’s investigations led him to have a crack(!) at crafting his own chocolate straight from the beans.
Krak Chocolade was born in early 2013, with Mark starting his operations with two small scale grinders from India before graduating to a slightly larger set up. Today, Mark makes chocolate for top chefs across Europe, taking the time to work with each chef to understand their precise needs, whether they are looking for a slightly acidic chocolate with a clean finish, or a rich, nutty chocolate with a buttery texture. Mark then sources the cacao and crafts a bespoke recipe. It is therefore no surprise that with such attention to detail, Mark’s couverture is very much in demand. So much so that he only makes very limited runs of bars of Krak. Yet, we are delighted that we have persuaded Mark to share Krak Chocolade bars with members of our Tasting Club and a limited number of bars for our Chocolate Library.
Still today, Krak Chocolade sources its cacao beans from Daarnhouwer & Co, which guarantees traceability, diverse origins and high quality, fine-flavour cacao.
We asked Mark a few questions about Krak Chocolade…
I started in the classic way: at 14 my first job was as dishwasher at my local pastry shop. I spent my time cleaning the chocolate bowls that had been used by the pastry chefs… This inspired my interest in chocolate and prompted me to train to be just like them! Once I finished pastry school, I started working in a Michelin starred restaurant – I loved the fact that they made everything themselves rather than buying in ready made pastries. For me, that job was the real start of using the best ingredients, using classic techniques and find new combinations of flavour, design and craftmanship. During this time, I won some international pastry awards, completed an internship in a French 3* Michelin restaurant and eventually rose to be head pastry chef in a Dutch 2* Michelin restaurant – a role I held for almost four years. At every turn, there was always chocolate…..
When did you start your company — and with whom? How many are there of you?
2010 was the year I started my own pastry based company. I was still working with the same people and restaurants that I had worked with previously, but now I had my own company with my own vision. Filled chocolates and chocolate decorations where my main business, but I was still working with couverture. It was around this time that I first started tow wonder about how the couverture I was using was made. In 2011 I reached out to the Dutch cacao trader Daarnhouwer and bought my first cocoa grinder. Then Krak was born in 2013. At the moment, I have a lot of help, but I’m proud to say that I’m still making the bars for Krak myself.
What mission have you set yourself for making chocolate?
My mission is to let people taste and learn what the real beauty of cacao can be. The chefs I have worked with always want the finest truffles, caviar and the best dry aged meat …. But then they would reach for a bag of commercial, factory killed chocolate. Perhaps my higher level mission is to convince people that chocolate is not a candy.
Where do you want to go next? New bars? New beans? New markets?
When I started making chocolate from the bean, a lot of people – and even pastry chefs! – didn’t know how chocolate is made. For me, there is a parallel with grapes and wine. So now I craft single origin chocolate bars to recipes that I think are best for each specific origin and each batch of beans. For chefs and pastry chefs, I want to create a new blend, recipe or a new dish. Savoury or sweet. I also look forward to working more together with more cacao growers.
[I] started a fermentation course from an authority in the cocoa fermenting world. Learning a lot about how cocoa does develop, also the roasting stage of cocoa. At the moment I am working on some really cool collaboration chocolate bars. Chocolatiers have started working with my origin chocolate.
What is the story behind your company name?
Maybe you can imagine…
Who designed your packaging – and what are you most proud of about your packaging
For the design of my packaging I have to thank two people. The first is the guy who painted my logo. It’s actually a big painting – 100cm x 70cm. I’ve know the artist, Ted Parker, for a couple of years now – he’s a member of my inner circle of friends. Some time back, I told him my story about chocolate and my plans and after a while we got to this idea and painting. The design incorporates a lot of stories about myself and my journey to this point in time. The second person I must thank is another close friend – this chap brings super smart ideas for the design of the packaging itself.
How did you source your beans?
I source my beans together with the Dutch company: Daarnhouwer. Working with them gives me access to the most diverse speciality cocoa that sails into the world’s largest cocoa trading harbour.
What inspired your choice of wrapper/mould design?
My journey into cocoa inspired the design of the packaging
What is your favourite food? Wine? Other chocolate makers?
For me, the key is to continue my search for interesting and unique beans and using my senses to understand how best to transform these fantastic beans into wonderful chocolate bars.